From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published January 8, 2010 06:47 AM

US EPA Proposes Stricter Ozone Standards

The United States Environmental Protection Agency proposed new stricter health standards for Ozone. Ozone is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can also harm healthy people who work and play outdoors.

Children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are more likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults are also sensitive to ozone.

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EPA is proposing to set the "primary" standard, which is supposed to protect public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. EPA is also proposing to set a separate "secondary" standard that is supposed to protect the environment, especially plants, trees, agriculture, and other air quality related values. The secondary standard is a  seasonal standard designed to protect plants and trees from damage occurring from repeated ozone exposure, which can reduce tree growth, damage leaves, and increase susceptibility to disease.

In September 2009 Administrator Jackson announced that EPA would reconsider the existing ozone standards, set at 0.075 ppm in March 2008. As part of its reconsideration, EPA conducted a review of the science that guided the 2008 decision, including more than 1,700 scientific studies and public comments from the 2008 rulemaking process. EPA also reviewed the findings of the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommended standards in the ranges proposed today.

Depending on the level of the final standard, the proposal would yield health benefits between $13 billion and $100 billion. The proposed tightened standards would help reduce premature deaths, aggravated asthma, bronchitis cases, hospital and emergency room visits and days when people miss work or school because of ozone-related symptoms. EPA calculates the estimated costs of implementing the new standards range from $19 billion to $90 billion.

Three public hearings are scheduled for the proposed rule. Two of the public hearings will be held on February 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia and Houston, Texas. The third public hearing will be held on February 4, 2010 in Sacramento, California.

For more information on Ozone and the proposed rule: http://www.epa.gov/groundlevelozone/

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